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Cyclists Sound Off on Winter Wear

Gearing up for the blustery bike season

by and

Be honest, how many of you die-hard summer cyclists have found yourself more often in the warm confines of your car lately and less often pedaling through the crisp autumn air? For we fair-weather cyclists--well, technically, we're warm-weather cyclists, right?--here's a little advice on how to avoid wussing out as Jack Frost starts making regular appearances in the valley.

According to Karen Dreher, sales associate at George's Cycles and a year-round cyclist, the two things you should remember are black ice and general safety.

"Know your roads and your route and back off a bit because of ice," she said. Even if the road is free of shady spots, be careful because that doesn't mean it's ice free. Also, said Dreher, be cautious of cars. Drivers and cyclists share responsibility for safety, and in icky weather conditions, even the best drivers and cyclists may not have the best control.

"The key to riding in winter, fall and spring is layering," said Dreher, who recommends wind- and water-resistant pants to keep your knees warm because they're doing all the work.

What to don on the top of your body depends on what kind of rider you are. If you're slower, you may not sweat, and moisture-wicking material may not be necessary. If you don't mind being a little chilly, perhaps a vest to keep your core warm is a better option than a long-sleeved jacket. Dreher recommends a base layer that wicks moisture followed with a light-weight jersey then if you need added protection, wear a jacket.

"The main thing you need to think about are your hands and toes," Dreher said. To keep your piggies warm, try booties that cover your whole foot and shoe or toe warmers for a partial-foot wind shield. And for the hands, go with lobster gloves, three-fingered gloves that keep fingers together while allowing for shifting and breaking movement.

Don't try to decide between a helmet and a thick wool hat. Go with the helmet and consider either a helmet liner if your noggin gets cold or--if you're committed to function over aesthetic--a balaclava to cover your head and face. And don't forget glasses to keep the stinging cold wind out of your eyes.

Dreher said the fall and winter months are a good time to have your bike serviced because bike shops are slow and can take the time to pay some serious attention to your ride. Most importantly, keep your chain clean and lubed. As for your tires, be sure to keep them at the recommended pressure. In Boise, where snow sometimes melts before you can dig out your sled, it's possible to get through the winter on regular tires.

If you're dedicated enough to pull out your metal steed in the snow on a regular basis, studded tires and bike tire chains will give you more grip in the slick stuff. Same with fenders--unless you're completely committed to two wheels, it's mighty tempting to crank up the car on slushy and rainy days. Fenders come in permanent and temporary, depending on what you need, but if you plan to ditch the car altogether, they're your best bet for staying clean on those mucky days.

We asked readers for tips on winter cycling and here's what they said:

"AME heated grips! Stop the wind manage the moisture! There is no bad weather, only bad gear.

--The Boise Bike Wench

"Layers and waterproof shells, fenders and safe routes."

--Aviva Cryophoenix Crichton

"New Levi's 511 commuter pant is one of my favorite tools."

--Glenn Landberg